8 April 2014

Kenya: Keep Off Kasarani for Now, Police Tell Aid Groups

Photo: H.Caux/UNHCR
Thousands held in the ongoing terror crackdown at the Kasarani stadium in Nairobi, Kenya (file photo).

Nairobi — Police on Tuesday, declared the Safaricom Kasarani Stadium a no-go zone for humanitarian organisations which want access to those detained there, following a terror crackdown.

Administration Police Spokesman Masoud Mwinyi says officers undertaking the exercise were under firm instructions from the Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo not to allow any of the groups at the venue for now.

"We are able to manage the situation in Kasarani because we're conducting screening. Where these agencies come in, they will be called appropriately," he said. "We feel that it should be confined to the operations of the police and where need be, agencies which are relevant will be called on board."

The UNHCR is among humanitarian organisations which have been seeking access to the stadium to enable its officials properly identify refugees and asylum seekers. The UNHCR Information Officer Emmanuel Nyabera told Capital FM News that "negotiations are ongoing and we are hopeful we will still be able to access and assess the situation."

"This access will allow UNHCR to properly identify refugees, asylum seekers and others of concern. It will also allow the agency to provide assistance to the detainees and obtain their release where appropriate," a statement from the organisation reads.

Mwinyi says 3,000 people have been screened so far, 467 are being detained for investigation while 69 others have been charged with various offences.

"Among those arrested are individuals who are in the country without valid documents, those who are outside the precincts of legally gazetted areas and those in unauthentic documents," he stated.

"As the operation continues, we are paying particular attention to documents such as the Kenyan national identity cards, passports, visas as well as work permits and refugee cards, all of which can be manipulated by unscrupulous persons."

He maintained that the operation will continue across all parts of the country.

For the better part of the day, families of the suspects camped outside the stadium, painting a picture of a desperate situation, with humanitarian groups accusing police of violating the rights of those detained.

"I have been to the police station but they referred me here to the stadium; they want me to go back again. I was here by 7am but am yet to see my son who was arrested on Saturday," he complained.

"They don't want me to even give him food."

Some of the suspects detained by police are young boys who have not attained the age of 18 years, while others told police they are in the process of acquiring identification documents.

"They arrested him this morning at around 1am for failing to answer two questions out of eight he was asked about the subjects he is taking in school," Abdikadir Haji whose brother was arrested said.

"He was scared of the police and that's why they became suspicious of him; we are even with his brother here."

Media efforts to access the stadium was also futile as police manning the gates said they had been ordered not to allow anybody inside.

"You have no business inside," one of the officer said as we tried to enquire on the right procedures required for one to gain access.

Another directed us to the area police boss to get a letter of authorisation.

While police insist they are not mistreating the suspects picked up from Eastleigh and other parts of the city, some of the family members and Muslim leaders interviewed insist the suspects' rights were being violated.

Mwinyi however said that no reports had been reported on police harassing some people.

"We are therefore asking any member of the public who is aggrieved in any manner to lodge a formal complaint to the nearest police station, the Internal Affairs Unit of the National Police Service or report directly to the Independent Policing Oversight Authority for such matter to be investigated," he said.

Human Rights activist Al-Amin Kimathi who was among leaders denied access to the stadium is now appealing to the police to allow humanitarian organisations to visit the detainees.

"We need a multi-agency approach to this issue. The Kenyans authorities can do better by having a transparent process," he said.

"We do support any legal activity ensured at maintaining security, law and order in this country and we want to see it done within the precincts of law."

He cautioned that, "as ruthless as they should be, they need to uphold the international human rights standards so that we do not end up feeding to counterproductive resource where we fall prey to the machinations of extremists of either side of the divide."

More than 100 suspects were arrested on Monday night and taken to the stadium where the screening process is underway for over 1,000 others arrested since last week.

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